Jackson Hole, WY News

Hog Island parcel

Up to 200 units of housing have been proposed on an 84-acre Hog Island parcel next to Munger Mountain Elementary School south of Jackson.

Teton County and town of Jackson planners have recommended rejecting a proposal that re-envisions the character of Hog Island to add more workforce housing.

Larry Huhn, a 40-year resident and owner of Hoback Market, seeks to build 125 to 200 units on 84 acres south of town and adjacent to Munger Mountain Elementary School. The land’s zoning calls for the area to remain rural with some light industrial, but Huhn’s team has submitted an application to amend the community’s Comprehensive Plan.

The proposal will see its first official public hearing Thursday.

Huhn’s group makes the case that a number of factors — construction of the elementary school and its 6-inch sewer line, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s expansion of Highway 89 to five lanes — suggests Hog Island’s character has already been altered and the 2012 comp plan’s vision is outdated.

This change in character, combined with the community’s desperate need for workforce housing, demands consideration of new density, Huhn’s team says.

“Our goal is to supply the community with housing options that help average working-class families,” Huhn said in a statement.

Planners are recommending denial, saying the community should stick to its original vision for Hog Island despite infrastructure upgrades.

State agencies like the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the school district aren’t required to consider the county’s vision when planning infrastructure. Adding density in response to development from such actions, planners said, inevitably leads to sprawl.

“Our community comprehensive plans have been consistent in choosing to preserve our character and ecosystem over infrastructure availability consistently over our history of land use planning,” the staff report read. “This application proposes the opposite position/logic for Hog Island, that infrastructure decisions made largely by state institutions should change the direction of the community’s comprehensive plan.”

Workforce housing should be directed to the town of Jackson, as envisioned in the comp plan. Outside town boundaries, other county neighborhoods have better access to services like retail and bus service than Hog Island, planners said.

“Enabling entitlement of units in Hog Island does not create more units,” the staff report said. “It moves units from town, the community’s largest and primary ‘complete neighborhood,’ to a location 8 miles south of town with few services.

“Contrary to the assertions in the application, ‘town as heart’ does not envision town as a central business district surrounded by sprawling bedroom communities.”

Sara Flitner, spokeswoman for the Munger housing project team, said despite planners’ analysis, it’s worth investigating the community’s appetite for Hog Island workforce housing.

“Is housing our workforce locally at some level still a priority?” Flitner said. “Do we get behind the idea that the people who run our hospitals and schools and newspapers and small businesses, do we want them in the community?”

She noted that there hasn’t been a new housing development in the county in decades and that Huhn’s limited contract on the Munger property adds urgency for consideration of the proposal.

Many at a Feb. 7 public meeting supported adding affordable housing, but worried how prices could be kept affordable for workers. Others, like some Hog Island residents, worried increased density would transform the small rural community.

The Teton County and town of Jackson planning commissions will review the proposal at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Teton County commissioners’ chambers. The Teton County Commission and Jackson Town Council will have final say on the proposal.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063, county@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGcounty.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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(2) comments

Daryl Hunter

It would be out of character for the commission to approve this as their tradition is to always talk a good game about employee housing, yet torpedo every reasonable solution to address it. They have to talk about it; however, another powerful constituency wants no growth and that is the one that is always kowtowed to.

When Phil Wilson was trying to do an affordable development a couple of decades ago, some ignorant commissioner said the seven miles to town was to far to get a bag of groceries and was bad for the environment. I think of her self-serving hypocrisy often as may wife and I drive separate cars through Hog Island on our120 mile per day commutes to Swan Valley.

But I guess since the masters for whom the commissioners kowtow won’t allow Indian Trails to open of to hwy 22, won’t turn Spring Gulch into a truck route to alleviate truck traffic in the town of Jackson and continued rejection of the north bridge across the river with the lame excuse that it will ruin a quarter of an acre of valuable elk habitat, the status quo will remain the same. Oh, except for the ignored, ever increasing traffic that everyone hates and tries to wish away.

Teton Valley, Swan Valley and Star Valley’s land developers will have increased prosperity, as will the carbon peddlers who enable the commute. The zoning for Jackson Hole has ruined the valley bottoms of two other valleys.

Paying lip service to two opposite communities is a tough balancing act, I guess it only makes sense to Kowtow to the voters and not those you have forced into environmentally unfriendly commutes in other counties.

The community that doesn’t zone for a working class deserves no working class. My son who was born in Jackson chooses to live in Portland where he can afford a home and not have to commute 120 miles for some faux environmentalist who already has a cabin in mountain nirvana. Another son lives and works in Rigby.

There are silver lining though, my cheap home in Bonneville County is paid for since I could finance it for 15 years, had I bought a home from Phil Wilson’s proposed development, my 30 year mortgage wouldn’t have been paid off until I was 75.

Michael Grasseschi

... having been watching this town increasingly push people out because they can no longer afford to live here with unmitigated greed ( sorry to be so blunt, but 38-40+% of our workforce no longer lives in town- who is to blame for that-!?), I feel like no serious housing proposal should ever be pushed off the table without serious consideration and public input...
The problem is those who need affordable housing the most are often the ones that do not get involved in this process, which is unfortunate, and people who already have their housing needs taken care of-- maybe they bought 20+ years ago-- or are already homeowners on the town council and other political forces- or they have outside sources of income, etc.. They are the ones talking about community " sprawl' and ' we can't change existing regulations', etc... because they know that if we add additional ( workforce/ affordable, etc) housing anywhere in the county -which is desperately needed here to the point where it's been rightfully called an "emergency" and/or "crisis" situation...
They know that it means their property values ( may) go down, and that's all that matters to them...
In other words I feel like we lack the 'political will' to really address this on the major scale it is needed...

Meanwhile an increasing number of people who cannot afford nearly Silicon Valley rents or property values are leaving this community never to come back because it truly is unaffordable...with salaries and wages that have put Jackson in the public eye many times in the past 10+ years for "the largest wage Gap in the United States -"...-!!
Is that what we really want: to become just another enclave of only the wealthy and the trust funders-??
I personally have never seen greed as bad as it is in Jackson...
It's destroying a once vibrant and eclectic community...

Does anyone truly care about the workforce here-? It's hard to tell-
But we deserve to not have to pay 50-85% of our income in rent ..-!
otherwise how can any of us ever really truly participate in this town and its economy if we're stretched to the max just to make it work here...
and many good people have left never to return because of this... I therefore respectfully implore all involved to please consider this proposal , even if it means altering existing tenets, statutes, LDRs, etc- unless it is in clear violation of community regulations...

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